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The European Fee has fined Preserve Italia Soc. coop. agricola and its subsidiary Conserves France S.A. (collectively ‘Preserve Italia’) a complete of € 20 million for breaching EU antitrust guidelines. 

The Fee has discovered that, for greater than 13 years, Preserve Italia participated with different market contributors in a cartel for the provision of sure varieties of canned greens to retailers and/or meals service corporations within the European Financial Space (EEA).

In September 2019, the Fee adopted a settlement determination towards Bonduelle, Coroos and Groupe CECAB for collaborating in the identical cartel. Preserve Italia determined to not settle this case with the Fee, in contrast to the three different contributors. Consequently, the Fee’s investigation towards Preserve Italia continued below the usual cartel process.

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Govt Vice President Margrethe Vestager (pictured), accountable for competitors coverage, mentioned: “With our determination right this moment, we will put a lid on our case on the canned greens cartel. Preserve Italia, the one producer who selected to not settle, agreed with the others on this cartel to divide the market and to repair the costs for sure canned greens throughout Europe. So for greater than 13 years shoppers suffered from much less competitors and better costs. The advantageous we impose right this moment on Preserve Italia, displays the gravity of their anticompetitive behaviour and the significance of competitors regulation”.

Commercial

For over 13 years Preserve Italia and the opposite cartel contributors fastened costs, agreed on market shares and quantity quotas, allotted prospects and markets, exchanged commercially delicate info and coordinated their replies to tenders. Their objective was to protect or strengthen their place in the marketplace, preserve or improve promoting costs, cut back uncertainty for his or her future business conduct and management advertising and marketing and buying and selling situations to their benefit.

The infringement lined the whole EEA and Preserve Italia’s participation within the cartel lasted from 15 March 2000 to 1 October 2013.

The Fee’s investigation revealed the existence of a single infringement comprising three separate agreements:

Commercial

  • An settlement overlaying personal label gross sales of canned greens equivalent to inexperienced beans, peas, peas-and-carrots combine and vegetable macedoine to retailers within the EEA;
  • an settlement overlaying personal label gross sales of canned sweetcorn to retailers within the EEA, and;
  • an settlement overlaying each personal manufacturers and personal label gross sales (offered below retailers’ manufacturers) of canned greens to retailers and to the meals service business particularly in France.

Preserve Italia participated solely within the two first agreements.

Fines

The fines had been set on the idea of the Fee’s 2006 Pointers on fines (see additionally MEMO).

In setting the extent of fines, the Fee took into consideration varied parts, together with the gross sales worth within the EEA achieved by Preserve Italia for the merchandise in query, the intense nature of the infringement, its geographic scope and its period.

Preserve Italia benefitted from 50 % discount of its advantageous for its cooperation with the Fee investigation below the Fee’s 2006 Leniency Discover. The discount displays the timing of Preserve Italia’s co-operation and the extent to which the proof it supplied helped the Fee to show the existence of the cartel wherein it was concerned.

Background

Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 53 of the EEA Settlement prohibit cartels and different restrictive enterprise practices.

The Fee’s investigation began with unannounced inspections in October 2013. In September 2019, the Fee adopted a settlement determination towards three corporations that admitted their involvement within the cartel described within the determination – Bonduelle, Coroos and Groupe CECAB. The full fines imposed had been €31 647 000. The investigation regarding Preserve Italia continued below the usual cartel process.

That is the second cartel case regarding canned foodstuffs. Within the canned mushrooms cartel, in June 2014, the Fee fined Bonduelle, Lutèce and Prochamp a complete of round €32m, and, in April 2016, it fined Riberebro €5.2 million.

Fines imposed on corporations present in breach of EU antitrust guidelines are paid into the overall EU finances. This cash is just not earmarked for specific bills, however Member States’ contributions to the EU finances for the next 12 months are diminished accordingly. The fines due to this fact assist to finance the EU and cut back the burden for taxpayers. In accordance with Article 141(2) of the EU-UK Withdrawal Settlement, this case is a “continued competence case”. The EU shall due to this fact reimburse the UK for its share of the quantity of the advantageous as soon as the advantageous has change into definitive. The gathering of the advantageous, the calculation of the UK’s share and the reimbursement would be the carried out by the Fee.

Extra info on this case shall be out there below the case quantity AT.40127 within the public case register on the Fee’s competitors web site, as soon as confidentiality points have been handled. For extra info on the Fee’s motion towards cartels, see its cartels web site.

Whistle-blower device

The Fee has arrange a device to make it simpler for people to alert it about anti-competitive behaviour whereas sustaining their anonymity. The device protects whistleblowers’ anonymity by a specifically-designed encrypted messaging system that permits two-way communications. The device is accessible by way of this hyperlink.

Motion for damages

Any individual or firm affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described on this case might carry the matter earlier than the courts of the Member States and search damages. The case regulation of the Courtroom and Council Regulation 1/2003 each affirm that in instances earlier than nationwide courts, a Fee determination constitutes binding proof that the behaviour came about and was unlawful. Though the Fee has fined the cartel contributors involved, damages could also be awarded with out being diminished on account of the Fee advantageous.

The Antitrust Damages Directive, which member states needed to implement into their authorized techniques by 27 December 2016, makes it simpler for victims of anti-competitive practices to acquire damages. Extra info on antitrust damages actions, together with a sensible information on the right way to quantify antitrust hurt, is accessible right here.

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